Across the United States, police officers have a sworn duty to serve and protect the community. In some instances, protecting the community involves using force (and sometimes even deadly force) as a means of fighting crime and apprehending individuals suspected of committing crimes. However, when police officers are overzealous in their pursuits or act in a negligent (or even an intentional) manner, their actions can lead to serious injuries, and in some cases, death—both of which are unjustified under the law.
In some cases, when a police officer’s actions lead to a private citizen’s unnecessary death, the officer is criminally charged with committing homicide. It is not unusual for a wrongful death case to then proceed in the civil court system.
In a civil wrongful death case, the deceased individual’s loved ones bring a claim against the arresting police officer (and sometimes against the police department and/or the municipality that employs the arresting police officer as well) for willful disregard of the law or negligence. In a wrongful death claim, the deceased individual’s loved ones may pursue damages for pain and suffering, as well as compensation for loss of companionship and future lost earnings.
If your loved one suffered death at the hands of an overzealous police officer, the Philadelphia police brutality lawyers at The Zeiger Firm may help. Our legal team knows how to investigate the circumstances of a wrongful death at the hands of the police and acquire the necessary evidence to build a wrongful death case. We can also pursue the monetary compensation you deserve for the loss of your loved one.
Please call us today to learn more about how we can assist you with pursuing a wrongful death claim against a police officer or municipality. Our experienced federal police wrongful death attorneys handle federal cases in the following counties that comprise the Eastern District of Pennsylvania: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, and Philadelphia.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim in the Federal Court System
Because an excessive police force case, including one with a wrongful death, may involve federal laws, it proceeds in the United States Federal Court System. The Civil Rights Act of 1871 and the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution often come into play in such a case.
When a police officer acts unreasonably under given circumstances and a suspect dies as a result, then the following constitutional violations may apply:
- Fourth Amendment prohibition against unlawful searches and seizures – When making an arrest, a police officer is only permitted to use necessary and reasonable force considering the circumstances. If the suspect did not present a physical threat of harm to the police officer, yet the police officer still used deadly force against the suspect, then the officer may have subjected the suspect to an unlawful seizure and used excessive force against him or her.
- Inadequate police officer training – Police departments and municipalities are responsible for adequately training their officers to respond to emergencies. As part of this training, officers should be taught how to determine whether or not deadly force is warranted in a particular set of circumstances. When a death occurs because of inadequate police officer training, a wrongful death claimant may file a federal lawsuit against the police department, city, county, or other municipality that is responsible for employing and training police officers.
- Failing to provide medical care to a suspect – The Fourth Amendment states that individuals, including police officers, must not unlawfully or unreasonably detain other individuals who are suspected of committing a crime. Consequently, if a police officer is aware of a suspect’s medical condition, knows that failing to obtain prompt medical treatment may lead to further injury, and disregards those warnings, the officer may be civilly liable for negligence.
An experienced Philadelphia police wrongful death attorney can assist you with proving that a constitutional violation likely occurred in your loved one’s wrongful death case.
Qualified Immunity in Federal Wrongful Death Cases
When it comes time to file a wrongful death claim or lawsuit in Philadelphia, many claimants will sue the police department or the municipality where the police department is located. This is because police officers, as government workers, are sometimes extended qualified immunity in wrongful death matters and other types of excessive force cases involving police officers.
In any case, a knowledgeable police wrongful death lawyer can assist you with filing your wrongful death claim against any and all individuals or entities potentially responsible for the death of your loved one.
Call a Police Wrongful Death Lawyer About Your Legal Issue Today
If your loved one passed away as a result of a police officer’s intentional, grossly negligent, or reckless actions, you may pursue a wrongful death claim seeking monetary compensation. The team of police wrongful death attorneys at The Zeiger Firm understands the pain of losing a loved one under such trying circumstances and will do everything possible to help you recover the compensation you deserve. We work with clients throughout Philadelphia and the surrounding counties.
To schedule a free consultation and case evaluation with a police wrongful death attorney, please call us at (215) 546-0340 or contact us online today to learn more.